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Murphy's Lore

Number Fifty-one of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.

Murphy’s Lore 51 - Monday, 16 December 2019

Nightmare on Downing Street

‘Most voters voted against me … most voters didn’t want to get Brexit done … most voters can’t stand me!’

“Wake up Prime Minister!”

‘What, what? … Ah yes! Oh frabjous day! Oh first past the post! To the victor the spoils. What ho! Oh, thank you … Scunthorpe!

Now … where is Scunthorpe exactly?’

David and Davie


WillowTo The Hepworth in the sunshine, to see Alan Davie and David Hockney paintings from the 60s, when both were famous and gay sex was illegal. The gallery is surrounded by willow gardens and water.

My brain’s reactions to the swirling, abstract Davie pieces was, ‘Mmm, that’s quite nice’. Which is about as wordy as I get about paintings - suspecting words might get in the way. The early Hockney’s were funny and provocative, and sometimes enhanced with scraps of cartoonish script (so take that, brain!). I’d liked to have run my hands over Hepworth’s abstract sculptures, but the signs said, DO NOT TOUCH.

At a large window overlooking the canal basin, Kathy pointed out three types of water: mirror-like canal water, holding a world upside down; clear, muscular, fast water and platinum blonde, scene stealing, crashing over the weir water.

In the cafe we ordered the same snacks, but were served ten minutes apart. So we did the crosswords. I read in the paper about that Italian artist who sellotaped a banana to a gallery wall. It was called ‘a brilliant provocation’ and sold for 50,000 Euros, but then someone ate it.

PW drove back and, guiding us from the heavens, Charlotte Sat Nav poshly sent us past the fine Georgian squares beyond the Cathedral. On the motorway, the lorry in front was being driven erratically. There was a phone number on the back and an enquiry, ‘How’s my driving?’

I wondered, if I rang, would the driver answer?

Jerry van Amerongen

Jerry’s an American cartoonist, but I don’t know if his surname is part of the joke. PW had this cartoon framed.


Doing a man’s look

It must have been in the early 90s, I went to my dad’s funeral in London and stayed on to catch up with the Murphy mob. Meanwhile, PW took the curly haired infant to Durham, for a pre Christmas gathering of the clans.

Darling Daughter and her boyfriend, Dr Death, stayed on in Savile Park, having secretly invited a few friends to a party at our house. Of course, word got out. Youths from all parts of Halifax and Ryburn Valley homed in on our humble abode. 

Next day, I rang DD from the services to say I’d be back in half an hour, but she set off for Durham before I got there. She must have left in a hurry, because when I walked up our path, I noticed the front door was wide open. Anyway, I checked round the house, didn’t spot anything amiss, had a good kip and next morning drove off bright and early for Durham.

Strangely, two days later, when we came home, PW spotted a few things that weren’t quite right, small stuff that I hadn’t noticed. Our Christmas presents had disappeared, there were pinholes in the  family photos on the kitchen noticeboard, where eyes had once been, beer had been liberally sprayed around the walls and there were notches in the back of the pine chairs, where bottles had been levered open. She strode into the living room and pushed the sofa back to the wall, revealing scores of black footprints on the ruined carpet.

Some neighbours who weren’t quite friends called round as we surveyed the wreckage and told us in a satisfied manner how they’d called the police out twice because of the racket. To get away from them, I nipped upstairs, and noticed that my trophies were mangled, my medals were missing and my jumbo LP collection had been on a crash diet.

Then I heard Darling Daughter and Dr Death walk in …

Deux chevaux in the snow

Imagine a hilltop school down the valley, after heavy snowfall …

Fortunately, the roads near the school had been cleared and gritted, and at hometime PW’s 2CV tootled along into the staff car park. As I came out, my Deputy Head, a guy in his mid 50s, (let’s call him Ian Smith - he was a fan of the racist Rhodesian ruler) rushed past me. He shouted, “Toby’s dad’s just rung. He said he’s going to punch my fucking head through the fucking playground.”

Now, unfortunately, PW had pulled up in front of Ian’s car, unintentionally blocking him in. I hurried into the passenger seat, but noticed in the wing mirror that Toby’s dad, until recently a non-paying guest of Her Majesty’s, was trotting through the school gates.

I shouted to PW, “Let’s go! Put your foot down.”

But with an exquisite example of Murphy’s Law, when PW put her foot down, the accelerator pedal came off. She picked it up in disbelief. I waved it apologetically at Ian, whose face was white as a snowman’s.

Fortunately, Smithy got off with a loud, sweary warning from Toby’s dad, who presumably didn’t want the police on his back so soon after his release.

A few years later, I bumped into a former colleague and heard that Smithy had clouted a cheeky kid across his chops in front of witnesses, was summoned to meet the Chief Education Officer in Halifax and ordered to take early retirement without enhancement with immediate effect.

Butter side up

For more than one reason, I award this week’s butter side up toast to Living Well in Todmorden for all the great support they do for women with cancer. Another reason is, they’re great company and they’ve booked me for an extra gig in February at Littleborough Lake country park - the first entry in my 2020 diary!

Living Well

Dream song

A typical night, I wake at 4am, go downstairs at half past and  read Pennine Tales* by local writer, Peter Riley. My mind goes along with Peter’s rhythmic, marshalled flow of consciousness verse - somewhat helped by knowing the Old Town and Colden bus routes and can visualise the lights that light nights and sites round here.


Upper Colden. Snow swirls at the doors
of stone farmhouses, thistle vibrating in the wind, snow cloud approaching up the valley.
This is true north. Later the moon rises and people behind rows of small windows take tablets, set the clock, do what they usually do.
In sleep, in dream song,
the daylight ghosts are laid
and trouble us no more.
In the silence nightlong
a life’s debts are paid
at the open door.

* Pennine Tales, (2016) is published by Calder Valley Poetry.


Hippy ValleyNever do your own publicity

Just in time for Christmas …

Hippy Valley,* a book for backward readers, is back in The Bookcase.

*Hippy Valley (2018) a collection of monologues and songs about round here, is published by Fantastic Books Publishers.

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